RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 8, E3 Recap

May 20, 2023

BY Eric Rezsnyak

After a double premiere last week, the show settled into the season with one of the more anticipated challenges, the ball. This time, the theme was Supermarket Ball. I’m not sure if there’s a pun I’m missing there, or someone was running errands and stressing on coming up with a theme for this challenge while getting a pasta salad in the deli section, but…choices were made. Let’s just say that.

Choices were also made on the judging panel tonight. I frankly didn’t agree with almost any of the High/Low placements, and based on her comments in “Untucked,” neither did one Heidi N. Closet. With all due respect to Miss N. Closet, there were absolutely some robbed queens this week. She wasn’t one of them. She was safe, and I thought deservedly so.

As with most “Drag Race” balls, this one had three themes: Legen-DAIRY Looks (inspired by the dairy aisle) and Fruity Patootie (supposedly fruit related), both of which the queens could bring from home, and then Supermarket Supermodel, which they had to make in the Werk Room using supermarket items delivered by the Pit Crew. I’ll have what Instacart THEY’RE having.

I’m going to go queen by queen in terms of my impression of their performance, and not based on the judges’ placements, because they apparently took advantage of the 2-for-1 special on crack cocaine.

Alexis Michelle should have definitely been in the top, if not won this challenge. The Dairy look suffered from being the, like, third cow-inspired outfit in a row — a condition I’m referring to as Bovine Fatigue Syndrome — but it was fine. Her fruit look was absolutely stunning. A gorgeous gown, clever and kitschy hair, it was easily the best look on that runway tonight. Then her hand-made supermarket look was very chic, very fashion, and would have been well received on “Project Runway.” Safe?! She crushed episodes 2 and 3, and got paid dust both times. Alexis is fast becoming our robbed queen of the season.

Kahanna Montrese had a great night. She gave us our first cow look, and again, it was fine. I thought her banana-inspired fruit look was very sexy and well executed. And then her handmade look was great! It appeared well made, the colors were bold and exciting, and she sold the hell out of on the runway. And she was…safe. I hope Kahanna is very proud of herself because she should be. What an amazing turnaround from Season 11 to now.

Jessica Wild was our winner, and while I would have put her High, I don’t get the win. Her dairy look, Froot Loops in milk, was one of my favorites of the evening. Her fruit look was fine, and certainly had more impact given the acai berry reference to her iconic S2 moment. But the third look was super underwhelming to me. She said she would surprise RuPaul on the runway. I was surprised — she had a ton of crazy materials and seemingly used none of them. I’m not upset that Jessica got the win (and the $30K for winning that bonkers lipsynch against Ra’Jah O’Hara). She’s a goddamned delight and I’m thrilled she’s getting this second lap. But I don’t actually agree she was the best in that challenge.

Heidi N. Closet was Safe, and would have been high or even safe for me. I absolutely loved her dairy look, a very chic play on the milkman. Her fruit look served up strawberry via extra-wide-leg pants. I know some people loved her handmade look, but it did not work for me. Loved the tequila sunrise color story, but that peplum was a peplUM. It was really more of a shelf bisecting Heidi in a very strange place.

Jimbo was High and that was absolutely wrong. Sorry not sorry. The panel critiqued Darienne’s dairy look for not being instantly recognizable as milk. Jimbo was right there on that stage wearing something that looked NOTHING like milk. The Fruity Patootie look was such a leap of logic that in my opinion it didn’t even fit the category. Everyone else went literal, doing fruit-based outfits. Jimbo just did a Warhol-esque dress with colored portraits of notable queer people (aka “fruits” — a term I don’t think anyone has used to describe gay people since the 1960s). The panel loved it, especially Ru, who was front and center on the dress. But to me this very clearly read as, “I already had this in my closet and I’m going to use it for this, whether it fits the brief or not.” Exhibit: Cher, who is on the dress and is not actually LGBT herself. Jimbo’s final look was a corset with stuff glued to it. And he was High. The judges/producers are doing no favors bending over backwards to push Jimbo this way, and I say that as someone who genuinely really likes Jimbo.

Darienne Lake was in the Bottom 2 and that was bullshit. She wouldn’t even be in my bottom 4. The judges knocked Darienne’s first look for having too long a skirt, so they didn’t get “milk” from the drip-shaped hem. Maybe it read differently on the stage but it was obvious to anyone at home. The fruit look was terrific, a nude bodysuit take on banana split, giving Chris Evans’ boner-inspiring moment in “Not Another Teen Movie.” The final look wasn’t terrific, but it was fine. Again they criticized the length of skirt, while LaLa Ri was standing right next to Darienne with her pussy practically hanging out on the stage. There was a very clear plan for where people were going to place this season, totally independent of the reality of their performances. You can’t tell me there wasn’t.

LaLa Ri was High and that is just insane. LaLa was one of our cow girls, and her cow look wasn’t even the best among them (I give it to Kahanna). Her fruit look was unsuccessful to me. I got the vision of the caramel apple, but the proportions were totally off. Tiny little stick, caramel that’s just a (unappetizing/clumsy) drizzle on the headpiece, and a full-body red latex bodysuit? No ma’am. The handmade look was beige…placemats? I guess? Turned into a basic top and the most micro of micro skirts. It was instantly forgettable. Look, I’m glad that LaLa had a redemption moment, and I hope we can now fully move past the bag look, which has had more screen time this season than several of the actual contestants. But this placement was not based on her performance this challenge. This was a storyline playing out, carried over from Season 13.

Kandy Muse was also High, and that’s a joke. Michelle even said, correctly, on panel that her first two looks were basically the same thing — colored bustier with accessories. The dairy one was white with molded splash pieces that we’ve seen for years on this show by now. The fruit was red to represent cherries. Beyond basic. The final look was thermal blankets — how is that supermarket materials? — turned into a skirt with a tin-foil, rigid breast plate. Where is the design? Compared to the creativity and effort by almost every other queen on that stage, how did Kandy end up High? She didn’t even seem to be trying. Why reward her at this stage?

Jaymes Mansfield should have been in the Bottom in my opinion. The first look did not read “dairy” at all — cookies are not dairy. I didn’t see milk, unless the dress was meant to suggest a milk carton, and if that’s the case, it did less than Darienne’s did. The fruit look was tacky as hell and seemed like it was going to fall off. The homemade look was…fine, I guess? The apron seemed like it had a life of its own. But I didn’t think any of these looks were super successful.

Mrs. Kasha Davis was eliminated, and that breaks my heart. I guess there’s solace to take in the fact that she went out on a challenge that is not in her wheelhouse, at all. As Kasha said, “I don’t sew my own clothes, because I’m not Amish, and I have good credit.” I totally got the sour cream idea for the first look, but I see how it was a reach. I thought her second look was one of the best things she’s ever worn on the show, and was totally successful — one of the better entries in the Fruity Patootie category. The final look was, by Kasha’s own admission, a mess. It was…everything. As in, it included everything. So I don’t begrudge her landing in the bottom, but I do think she had one super successful look, and there were others in this challenge that did not have that. And they were safe and/or High. That’s my issue, and you should strap in because I think that’s going to be a problem with this season A LOT.

Kasha’s elimination was deeply sad. You could tell how much she wanted to be there, and her final line — “There’s always time for kindness” — is a message we all need to hear and embrace now. I’ve already seen multiple viewers talk about how moved they were by that, and that’s what Kasha deserves. I don’t believe she was ever given a fair shot, either in Season 7 or All Stars 8. That is a bummer. If you have not, please take a moment to check out the documentary made on Kasha, Workhorse Queen, as well as her Imagination Station project. I’m floored that was not given ANY discussion on this season, given how drag queen story hours have become super political in our ongoing culture wars. A missed opportunity on behalf of this show, and extremely disappointing.

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